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Russia’s Urals oil rises above $60 Western price cap as Brent strengthens

Russia’s Urals oil price rose above the $60 a barrel cap imposed by Western nations on Monday as Brent climbed, while freight rates were relatively soft despite new U.S. sanctions and rising tensions in the Red Sea, traders said and Reuters calculations showed.

The U.S., other Group of Seven (G7) countries and Australia imposed the cap last year, seeking to reduce Russia’s revenue from seaborne oil exports as part of sanctions prompted by its invasion of Ukraine.

Under the terms of the cap, suppliers of the Russian oil are only able to use Western services such as shipping and insurance when Russian crude trades below $60 per barrel.

Urals oil cargoes loadings from Russia’s Baltic and Black Sea port were priced at $63-65 per barrel on Monday on a free-on-board (FOB) basis, which excludes charter costs and insurance, according to Reuters calculations.

Russia’s main export grade had been trading below $60 since last November.

Shipping costs for Russian oil to Asia from the main Baltic ports eased in early 2024, despite security concerns in the Red Sea, winter weather and rising scrutiny over the limits of a price cap.

Brent futures ended the week above $83 a barrel last Friday, up from $75.89 on Jan. 2, and remain at their highest since early November.

Urals oil prices on a delivered ex-ship basis in Indian ports were stable at a discount of around $4-5 per barrel to dated Brent, two traders said.

Freight rates for Aframax ships, which can carry 500,000-800,000 barrels, stand around $8 for a one-way voyage between Russian Baltic ports and Indian ports, the traders added.

Freight rates softened from November, when the price of the voyage from Baltic ports to the west coast of India rose to almost $10 million per vessel.

Rising war risk insurance for oil supplies from Russia’s western ports to Asia via the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden has limited sellers’ revenues, while the potential diversion of oil flows around Africa may drive FOB prices lower, they added.

Some shipping companies have suspended transit through the Red Sea, which is accessed from the Gulf of Aden, and taken much longer, costlier journeys around Africa to avoid being attacked by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi group.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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